An article in a recent edition of a safety magazine sanctioned by the state addresses concerns the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has over the widespread use of forklifts on industrial job sites.
The Maryland worker safety office, OSHA, cites concerns for the dangerous situations that occur when the latest federal and state standards for forklift operation are not followed. Forklifts are one of the most commonly used pieces of machinery used on the job and are the source of most serious injuries sustained by workers. Tragically, the improper operation of forklifts is the main cause of deaths in industrial settings, too.
Forklifts are known by other names, most often referred to as Powered Industrial Trucks (PITs) and fork trucks. They are manufactured in a number of different styles and sizes but they all perform the same basic operation and safety is a must when operating them.
Perhaps the key to safely operating a forklift is mindfulness of the machine’s center of gravity. Loading the machine in a manner where the weight of the load is off center, too far forward, or otherwise unbalanced will diminish the stability of the forklift and its load. This unbalanced load may lead to damage of the machine and the load and is likely to jeopardize the safety of the operator, too.
The proper loading of the forklift is not only a safety issue that affects the operator, however. Bystanders can be seriously hurt if the forklift tips over or drops its load in the direction of anyone in the immediate vicinity.
Each forklift, or PIT, comes with the maximum load weight clearly indicated on the forklift’s data plate. There may be circumstances when a forklift needs to be modified or retrofitted to include additional parts or attachments.
Any modifications whatsoever made to the machinery must be approved in advance and clearly documented before the modifications can legally be made. The details of these modifications, approved in writing, must be affixed to the equipment’s data plate before operating the machinery with these modifications.
In reviewing Maryland labor laws, I have noticed there are a number of statutes on the books that may be of interest to both employers and employees. Let’s take a look at a few of these laws.
Did you know that in Maryland, employees must be paid at least once every two weeks or twice per month? Executive, professional and administrative employees are, however, exempt from this rule and may be paid less frequently. Maryland labor law does provide for a state minimum wage of $6.15 per hour. Some businesses are exempt from the law, such as employees of movie theaters, and employees of small restaurants and cafes with less than $250,000 per year of gross income. Tipped employees may be paid no less than $3.08 per hour, and their average hourly income with tips and wage included must at least meet the minimum wage.
Employment rules for minors are often a topic of interest. Under Maryland labor laws, minors under 18 must get a work permit. There are also two sets of work-hour restrictions, one for 14 and 15 year olds, and another for 16 and 17 year olds. The restrictions for 14 and 15 year olds are in some cases less strict than federal laws. So, if an employer is required to adhere to the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the more restrictive federal law must be followed.
Many states have occupational safety and health statutes as a part of their labor code, and the Maryland labor law is no exception. The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health division carries out enforcement of a variety of state laws and federal standards designed to maintain a safe, healthful and hazard-free workplace. Employers may be inspected and fined if they do not meet these standards.
Maryland labor law contains many other provisions to benefit employees, including workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, apprenticeship standards, and prevailing wages for public works constructions projects. You may find the Maryland Complete Labor Law poster to be a helpful summary of these state labor laws, as well as applicable federal laws on the subject.